Los Angeles Chargers 13 – New England Patriots 21
In this Week 8 AFC matchup, the Los Angeles Chargers were able to lose yet another game based on their own mistakes, as the New England Patriots were able to do enough to get themselves to 6-2 as they head into their bye.
What was clear throughout the game was the belief the Patriots had in themselves to deliver on a rather conservative game plan on offense and still prevail thanks to a much improved defence and their ability to win the battle of special teams. Despite this confidence (especially in the second half), the game didn’t actually start out too well for the Pats. Melvin Gordon (whom I loved coming out of Wisconsin), rushed for an 87 yard touchdown midway through the first quarter for the first score of the game. Gordon would run for only 45 yards on all other plays in the rest of the game, so you could chalk this down as simply a star running back getting one over on the opposing defence. It’s not too big of a deal, especially not now, knowing with hindsight that the Patriots would inevitably go on to win the game regardless.
On the next drive however, Brady and the offense would march up the field of a game tying touchdown and PAT, with the drive culminating in a Rob Gronkowski touchdown on a smart drag route play where he first faked a block and left himself wide open. Note to all NFL defenders, you should never leave Rob Gronkowski THAT wide open. Bad things will happen. However, the truly game turning play would occur a few drives later as the Patriots punt the ball away after a drive stalled at their own 35 yard line. Receiving the punt was Travis Benjamin, who made himself look like the dumbest person in a stadium full of drunk Bostonians, and that’s hard to do. Eventually picking up the ball from the punt at around the 9 yard line, Benjamin made the decision to run towards his own endzone in an attempt to use his speed to evade the New England special teamers. Instead, he was brought down for an embarrassing safety, taking the score to 9-7 Patriots. However, this not only gave the Patriots the literal lead, but gave them a mental edge, because they knew they were going to do everything in their power to do their job and not make any mistakes that costly for their own team.
Despite playing conservatively for the majority of the second half, Tom Brady was still able to accumulate 333 passing yards and that touchdown pass to Gronkowski, which combined was good enough to garner a passer rating of 95.4 for the game. Despite a good kick-off return for Dion Lewis to start the second half (The Pats’ special teams were particularly strong in this matchup), the drive only ended in a field goal attempt, which Stephen Gostkowski would miss. This would be one of two field goals the four time pro bowl kicker would miss in the game, with both coming from 43 yards out. So, there was one aspect of special teams that didn’t live up to the rest of the performance.
In the end, this was another Patriots game that was never really in doubt. Despite the score showing itself to be a one score game, the New England offense had enough faith in the defence to only put up 6 points in the second half. This wasn’t a flashy Patriots win or another classic Brady throwing the ball a million times game, because it didn’t need to be. New England heads into their bye week completely confident that they have now figured out the kinks on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. At 6-2, the Pats are tied at the top of the AFC standings in the playoff seeding race. Because the confidence is such that for many Patriot fans, the season doesn’t start until the AFC Championship Game and it’s kind of shown in games like this where New England don’t really need to give 100% of their effort and playbook to a game in order to come out victorious.